Jesus Is the Son of Man

Jesus Is the Son of Man

Daniel is told that the “saints of the Most High” will receive and possess the kingdom (Daniel 7:18, 22, 27). What is given to the one like a son of man is eventually given to (or shared with) the saints. By Jesus’s time, it seems that “Son of Man” had become a title with this passage as a large part of its background. In other words, “Son of Man” had distinct Messianic overtones. We should not be surprised to see the title “Son of Man” closely associated with authority, judgment, or a future coming of Jesus.

All authors employ names and titles to convey meaning. The biblical writers are no exception.

I’m nearing the end of a project examining the names and titles for Jesus in the Gospels. My first article laid out my methodology and looked at the top 10 titles of Jesus in the Gospels. I have written about the titles of Jesus in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and I am wrapping up this project by studying three specific titles of Jesus used in the Gospels. I’ve written about Jesus being called “Christ” and the “son of God.” Today we will consider what it means for Jesus to be called the “son of Man.”

Old Testament Background

We may think of “Son of God” as the title of Jesus that points to his divinity and “Son of Man” as Jesus’s title which emphasizes his humanity. As I wrote previously, that’s a bit too simplistic.

In many Old Testament uses, the phrase “son of Man” does mean “human.” See, for example, Numbers 23:19, Job 16:21, Isaiah 56:2, Jeremiah 50:40, or Ezekiel 2:1. Most uses of this phrase in the Old Testament occur in Ezekiel as it is God’s preferred way to address the prophet.

However, when Jesus is called the “son of Man,” it is clear this is not just a stand-in for “person.” Jesus called himself the Son of Man scores of times, in ways that pointed beyond mere humanness.

As we explore additional Old Testament background for this title, we find an important passage in the book of Daniel.

I saw in the night visions,
and behold, with the clouds of heaven
    there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
    and was presented before him.
And to him was given dominion
    and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
    should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
    which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
    that shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13–14)

In one of Daniel’s visions, great, terrible beasts have gained power until the Ancient of Days sits on a throne of judgment. Dominion was taken from the beasts and then, in this passage, given to “one like a son of man.”

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